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UK hacking trial hears of targeting of murdered girl's phone

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Britain's phone-hacking trial heard evidence on Tuesday about how the News of the World listened to voicemail messages left for missing British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the case which brought down the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper.

Prosecutors said a 2002 story about the 13-year-old, who was later found murdered, was changed between the first and second editions of the newspaper to remove references to a message on her voicemail.

Then editor Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch's protegee who went on to run his British newspaper wing, was on holiday but was in contact with her deputy Andy Coulson between the editions, the court heard.

Brooks and Coulson both deny charges of phone hacking at the News of the World, which Murdoch shut down in July 2011 after public revulsion at revelations that the schoolgirl's phone had been targeted.

On Monday, Coulson's lawyer urged jurors to "keep an open mind" and confirmed the 45-year-old would be giving evidence later in the trial, which is expected to last six months.

"It's his case that he was never party to any agreement to hack phones, whatever others might have been doing on his watch," defence lawyer Timothy Langdale told the Old Bailey court.

Langdale also revealed that Coulson had his own phone hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and suggested this would have been unlikely if he had known about the practice.

"Both conspirator and victim? It is fair to say, is it not, that the two things do not sit easily together?" he said.

Coulson was deputy editor of the News of the World under Brooks and replaced her in 2003 when she moved to edit the tabloid's daily sister paper, The Sun.

Last week the trial heard that the pair had a six-year affair until 2004.

Coulson resigned when former royal editor Clive Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed for hacking in 2007, although he always insisted he was ignorant of their activities.

He went on to become communications chief for Prime Minister David Cameron, although he quit in early 2011 amid increasing questions about his own role in the scandal.

'Chicken's in the pot'

The court also heard on Monday how Brooks' husband Charlie and News International's former head of security Mark Hanna tried to hide evidence from police investigating her for phone hacking.

Security staff moved a rubbish bag of material from the couple's country home and took it to their flat in London, hiding it near the bins under the pretext of delivering pizza, the court heard.

However, before the bag could be recovered it was found by a cleaner and handed to police, the court heard.

After one of the security guards dropped off the package he sent a text message to a colleague referencing the 1968 Clint Eastwood film "Where Eagles Dare".

"Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken's in the pot," he texted, to which the colleague replied: "Ha, fucking amateurs. We should have done a DLB (dead letter box) or brush contact on the riverside."

Prosecutor Andrew Edis said this was a "quite complicated and quite risky" exercise which could only be explained as an attempt to hide evidence -- and said it was "inconceivable" that Brooks did not know what was taking place.

Brooks, her husband and Hanna all deny charges of perverting the course of justice.

Brooks is also accused of directing her personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, to remove seven boxes of notebooks from the company's archive. She and Carter deny the charges.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131105/uk-hacking-trial-hears-targeting-murdered-girls-phone